Two statewide elected officials are facing unusual challenges from within their own party in Tuesdays primary, forcing them to answer tough questions about their performance well before the November election.
State Treasurer Janet Cowell faces a fellow Democrat who is criticizing the poor performance of the states investment fund. And Republican Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is squaring off against a candidate who is blasting his handling of an E. coli outbreak at last years state fair.
The other eight statewide elected officials either arent seeking re-election or received a primary election pass.
Cowells rival is Ron Elmer, a Cary investor and author, making his first bid for public office. Given the incumbents advantages, Elmer admits he will likely lose. But he wants to highlight what he sees as the investment funds subpar performance.
With his experience managing state and private pension funds, Elmer said he could make the state nearly a billion dollars by better investing the states $72 billion pension fund. He also said he would manage the states money within the department, saving millions in investment fees.
Cowell defended the states pension fund as one of the top performing in the country, especially given its conservative investment model. She said 40 percent of the fund is managed in-house but state law prevents staffers from maintaining the bulk of the investments. Anybody in this pension should feel very good ... about the performance of the fund, she said.
The winner will face the Republican nominee in November either Frank Roche or Steve Royal both of whom are echoing Elmers criticisms.
Roche is a private stock trader and conservative radio show host who lost the 4th District GOP primary for Congress in 2010.
In addition to improving the state investment fund, Roche said his main concern is mounting government debt. As an executive in state government, I want to change the rhetoric, say no, find other ways to pay for government, he said.
Royal, who runs his own accounting firm in Elkin, made an unsuccessful congressional bid in 1990. He is calling for widespread reforms and refuses to take special interest campaign money. He is pledging to only serve one term. Reform it, fix it and go home, he said.
In the Republican race for state agriculture commissioner, Bill McManus is challenging the incumbent by highlighting the E. coli outbreak that sickened 27 people at last years state fair. He said the department didnt do enough to maintain hand-washing stations and prevent the spread of the bacteria, which left at a 2-year-old seriously ill.
But while quick to criticize, the former attorney and accountant is avoiding questions about his past notably his tenure as a Democratic state lawmaker in Massachusetts in the 1990s and his Democratic bids for the Florida legislature about five years ago. He called himself a Republican at heart but declined to answer further questions.
Troxler, the incumbent, is emphasizing his background as a farmer. State law requires the commissioner to be a farmer, but McManus, a semi-retired real estate investor, rejects the notion. The person overseeing them should be a CEO, he said.
Troxler said his campaign is focused on growing the states $2.7 billion commodity export and maintaining the food safety program.
The winner will face whoever triumphs in the Democratic primary between Walter Smith and Scott Bryant.
Bryant is a cattle and grain farmer in Chatham County. He is a former law enforcement officer with 20 years experience. His campaign is focused on better marketing the states agriculture products, cutting regulations on farmers and advocating for small farms.
Smith, who did not return calls for comment, owns a poultry farm in Yadkin County. He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and served as mayor of Boonville, his website says. If elected, his website says he would establish a hotline to give people better opportunities to raise issues with the state.